Dear Mr. Secretary: Help Working Families Weather the Unexpected


Editor’s note: Dan Turner is a dad from the District of Columbia who wrote to Secretary Tom Perez about the need for paid leave. Here is his letter. Read letters from other dads here

Dear Mr. Secretary,

My company, TCG, is a government contractor with more than 110 employees. We’ve grown quickly, more than doubling since 2012. I’m writing to tell you about that year − the most difficult of my life so far.

In 2012, my 1-year-old son's food allergies sent him to the hospital four times. And my twin sons were born 12 weeks early, ultimately spending 150 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.

It was like my family was struck by lightning, cleaving it in two. My wife spent five months driving the 20 minutes back and forth to the NICU at least once, and sometimes two or three times, every day. She came back for dinner with the kids and then often went back there until late in the night.

The Turner twins as newborns

I spent those five months being a stay-at-home dad to my older kids, who were then 1 and 3.

My company offered paid parental leave, though not nearly 5 months' worth, and employees could choose to purchase short-term or long-term disability. I hadn't purchased any for myself – as a young, healthy person, why would I need it? So the rest of the time, I used a combination of sick leave, vacation, comp time and unpaid leave, working only the occasional meeting that I had to attend. And we dug into savings, of course. The costs were substantial.

When my twins finally got out of the hospital, the final bill was north of $2.2 million. We are so amazingly lucky to have had good insurance. The District of Columbia’s Early Intervention program brought us the therapy that helped my kids learn to eat, talk, walk and function - I can't say enough good things about it. Today my twins are thriving, happy 4-year-olds.

Dan Turner with his twins as babiesMr. Secretary, I'm immensely lucky. I’m lucky that my growing company had reached a point where it didn't need me day-to-day. I'm lucky that my company can now offer paid long-term and short-term disability insurance to everyone. And I'm lucky that we offer paid parental leave. This wasn't the kind of event that happens every day or even every year, but it does happen. If our society values families, we have a responsibility to support the people who are building them.

But we can’t rely on luck – paid leave has to be something everyone can access. That's why I support the paid family leave act proposed by the District council. The costs aren't small, but the benefits would be massive for my business. Most employees in my position would have had to quit or would have spent most of their time at work worrying about their kids. That's also a tough position for an employer because when a worker is dealing with that kind of distraction, productivity will decrease.

It’s a ridiculous position to put an employee or an employer in.

We must do all we can to fix this broken system.

Thank you for all you do,

Dan Turner

We want to hear from other dads (and moms): How would having paid family leave make a difference for your family? If you have paid leave already, how does it help you now? Share your story at dol.gov/PaidLeave.


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Comments

Thank You for publishing this.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. You were very fortunate. I am about to go out for a knee replacement surgery and will have to be on unpaid leave for 3 weeks. My Family can not afford this, but, I have to get it done. There should be some kind of short term disability available for those who don't have Paid Time Off.

Dan, congratulations on the birth of your children and outcomes! However, your insights into paid leave are based on a false assumption and perception of the real world. You see, it's impossible to offer paid leave as you describe all workers in the US. Maybe in the school system here substitute teachers fill in for each other... but let me pose to you a logical scenario - one that would reflect the average company in the US... small restaurant, business, or as the SBA puts it, about 80% of the jobs in the US. Let's say the local deli has two employees and the owner working there. One of the employees wants paid leave for the timeframe you are suggesting. Even if the paid leave was paid by the government (which would mean a huge tax increase), how is the deli supposed to run? There aren't a truckload of substitute deli workers just waiting for work, and there are certain skillsets that the person would have to have to work in that deli. You see Dan, I could give you a thousand of real world examples of how what you are suggesting is insane. And if you did it for say employees at defense contractors, or companies of a certain size, or whatever, what about the 80% of working Americans. Dan, I hope you eventually see the error of your ways and wake up from this socialist dream.

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